A new deal struck with two local corporate project partners will give the students at the University College of the Cayman Islands’ the ability to use WiMax technology in accessing broadband internet service from the campus or at home.
UCCI president Hassan Syed called the development historic.
‘It is… one of the most exciting projects to come to Cayman with regard to education,’ he said.
The local corporate partners involved in the project are Digicel and Kirk iSS. The latter has enlisted the cooperation of two overseas companies, Hewlett Packard and Microsoft.
The first phase of the project, which is already 90 per cent complete, will establish a campus-wide WiFi network, which will provide UCCI students with wireless Internet.
In the second phase of the project, Digicel will deliver residential wireless broadband access to UCCI students who are part of a pilot programme. This phase of the project is due to commence in March and finalise by July, Mr. Hassan said.
‘The third phase will see a launch of new services to the entire student population at UCCI,’ he said.
Once students have the wireless internet service either at home or on the UCCI campus, they will be able to access other teaching solutions such as eCollege or ANGEL Learning, which can allow students to study in a virtual learning environment rather than in the classroom.
‘The ANGEL on-line learning facility is a platform being used by the top, top schools all over the world,’ Mr. Hassan said.
Such solutions would allow students from the Eastern Districts of Grand Cayman, from the Sister Islands or even from other parts of the Caribbean to learn from home instead of having to be in class.
Digicel CEO J.D. Buckley said communications and technology were playing an integral role in learning.
‘Today’s students are increasingly learning in a non-traditional environment,’ he said. ‘Many students work full time while pursuing further education, making it necessary for them to learn outside the box,’ he said.
Mr. Buckley said learning opportunities become almost endless in the new technology-driven environment, and that Digicel was very pleased to use the technology in such as positive way.
‘We’ve seen that learning is not contained solely on campus,’ he said. ‘And learning doesn’t end when a class or lesson is over. Learning is a continuous process, which technology can support.’
Kirk iSS Managing Director Geoffrey Cuff said his company was proud to be a partner with the UCCI initiative.
‘We believe the WiMax network will bring a lot of excitement to the students and to the community as a whole,’ he said.
One of the key prerequisites for success of the programme is that students have access to computers both on campus and at home.
Mr. Syed said there was already as scheme whereby students could get a laptop computer at subsidised prices.
‘Kirk iSS has very aggressive pricing for the students,’ he said, noting that UCCI students in the pilot phase can now get a laptop, including a software package, for about US$600.
Mr. Syed said UCCI did not want to give away ‘freebies’ and that there needed to be a buy-in from the students.
‘We did a student survey on what price range they could work with,’ he said. ‘The [project] partners are committed to taking the load off the students.’
Minister of Education Alden McLaughlin said he supports the initiative not only because of its timeliness, but because it dovetailed into other Ministry initiatives regarding the government primary and high schools.